Evangelizing uncontacted tribes
Last March, representatives of the British television company Cicada Films were accused of unwittingly introducing an epidemic that left four Matsigenka Indians dead while the filmmakers scouted locations for the Discovery Channel’s “World’s Lost Tribes” reality show. Cicada Films denies causing any such outbreak. Brazilian activist Sydney Possuelo, featured in a 2003 National Geographic story, once favored modern contact with tribes but changed his mind after seeing the sicknesses and cultural challenges indigenous people face as a result.
It’s hard to understand how providing medical care and literacy is exploitation, especially among indigenous groups where the life expectancy of men and women is lower than average and suicide rates among youth are alarmingly high, but New Tribes and other mission organizations may face increasing opposition as governments like Venezuela’s and Brazil’s restrict outside access to tribes. In the process, those governments seem to be promoting the ideology of the “noble savage” and assuming it’s in the best interests of indigenous people to have no access to the modern world, or to the gospel.
Brother, you say there is but one way to worship and serve the Great Spirit. If there is but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it? Why not all agree, as you can all read the book?
Brother, the Great Spirit has made us all. But He has made a great difference between His white and red children. He has given us a different complexion and different customs. Since He has made so great a difference between us in other things, why may we not conclude that He has given us a different religion, according to our understanding?
Brother, we do not wish to destroy your religion or take it from you. We only want to enjoy our own.